Restaurants are now handling more data than ever before. Even small family restaurants store data regarding vendors, customers, and staff on their internal servers, including sensitive financial information. Unfortunately, while advanced technology such as POS systems and online cash registers have become integral to how many restaurants function, these systems can be vulnerable to hacking, which could cause a costly data breach to occur. In fact, it is estimated that a security breach occurs every 39 seconds, and restaurants and small business are the most common targets for hackers.
Unfortunately, these cyber-attacks can be extremely costly for businesses. Not only are 68% of funds lost from cyber-attacks declared unrecoverable, but if customer's sensitive information is breached, you may also be faced with thousands of dollars in fines from credit card companies, and you may be fined by the government if you violated data management laws. Perhaps most importantly, a data breach can cause you to lose the trust of your customers, which can be detrimental for many restaurants. As an owner or manager of a restaurant, this makes it critical that you educate yourself on restaurant cyber-attacks so that you can protect your business. To help get you started, here are a few critical steps that you can take to protect your restaurant's cybersecurity.
- Make Sure You Are PCI Compliant
If you have not done so already, one of the most critical things that you can do to secure your business is to make sure that you are using technology, and working with companies, that are PCI compliant. The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard is a set of guidelines laid out by the PCI Security Standards Council that is meant to protect customers by ensuring that businesses that accept, process, store, and/or transmit credit card information do so in a secure environment that protects customer's sensitive information. Using technology that is PCI compliant, and working with vendors that do the same, will add an extra layer of protection to your business by greatly reducing the risk that your customers' credit card information will be compromised.
- Credit Card Encryption is Key
Of course, in addition to using PCI compliant technology, you can also protect your customers by ensuring that you use a modern point of sale system (POS) that immediately encrypts credit card information whenever a credit card is swiped, as this will help to ensure that all transactions are processed securely. The fact is that hackers can easily follow a trail, so encrypting credit card information from the first stage of a transaction will help to keep customer information secure. Since your credit card reader will immediately encrypt and secure credit card information, hackers will have no reason to try to infect your POS system with malware as they will not be able to gain any useful information from your system.
- Use Updated Technology
The benefits of upgrading to an encryption capable POS system also underscores the importance of using modern, updated systems at your restaurant in order to keep your data secure. The fact is that older hardware is more susceptible to falling under attack, as the latest technology comes with built-in features that help defend against hacks and tampering. It is also critical that you keep all of your software and security technology updated, as software updates often come with patches and upgrades that help to make this software more secure. Keeping all of your technology updated can give you the best chance of defending your restaurant against cyber-attacks.
- Secure Your Wireless Network
With the internet becoming a more integral component in people's everyday lives, it is becoming increasingly common for restaurant owners to offer free Wi-Fi to their customers. While more customers now view free Wi-Fi as a critical service, and they expect to see it at most restaurants, this can leave the restaurant owners at risk if they do not take certain precautions to secure their network. One of the most important things that you should do is to provide a public Wi-Fi network for customers that is separate from the private one that you use for business activities, as this will make it more difficult for customers to access your sensitive information. Next, make sure that both Wi-Fi networks have their own unique password and that you keep the private Wi-Fi network's password secure from all but your most trusted employees. Finally, you should hide your business's private Wi-Fi network, as this will make it so that no one can see or access your business network without imputing the network's name and password manually. Taking these steps can reduce the likelihood that customers will be able to use your wireless network to hack into your system.
Part 2 will cover additional strategies to protect your restaurant's data.